Custom Search


Swiss Stamps

Standing Helvetia Issues

of 1882-1907



Swiss stamps of the Standing Helvetia design were first issued in 1882, replacing the perforated Sitting Helvetia Issues. These stamps are among the most beautiful of any 19th Century definitive issues, and they are one of the most popular collecting specialties with Swiss philatelists.

There are a lot of stamps in this series, but using the Zumstein catalog approach, they are very easy to attribute. There were three different so-called "watermarks", four different perforation gauges, and two different papers, during the life of the series. The basic tools required to specialize in this series are a perforation gauge that measures in quarter-steps, a watermark tray and fluid, and a magnifying glass.

For clarity, the different issues described in this page are presented in Zumstein catalog order. I personally find this listing format very straightforward and easy to understand. The Michel listings are excruciatingly precise, but they can be confusing.

The Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue and the Scott Classic Specialized Catalog SHOULD NOT BE USED FOR COLLECTING THE CLASSICAL STAMPS OF SWITZERLAND.  The listings are confusing, and in some cases, they ARE INCORRECT.

For example, Scott lists the 1882 Standing Helvetia set (Scott #82-88) as being perforated 11 1/4 - 11 1/2 with the Cross in Oval "watermark" ... This is misleading and incorrect.  This set is perforated 11 3/4, and it was only printed with the Cross-in-oval imprint Type I.

The technical descriptions on this web page are CORRECT, as per the Zumstein catalog.



Type 1

Type 2


The so-called cross-in-oval watermark is NOT ACTUALLY A PAPER WATERMARK at all! The cross in oval was impressed into the paper, as a control mark, after its manufacture.

Two varieties of the cross-in-oval impression were used.

The first type, shown above left, was used from 1862 through about 1892.  On the first type, the oval is 8.9 mm wide at its widest point. The branches of the cross are thicker, and the double lines of the oval are fairly wide apart.

The second type, shown above right, was used from 1894 through about 1904, when it was abandoned in favor of a paper that contained the Swiss cross watermark.  On the second type, the oval is 8.4 mm wide at its widest point. The branches of the cross are thinner, and the double lines of the oval are very close.

Differentiating stamps with the two impressed control mark types seems easy, but it can be quite problematic. In some instances, the cross-in-oval impressions were so heavy that they actually broke through the paper.   In other instances though, the impressions are so light that they can barely be seen, even in watermark fluid. The cancellations on used stamps can make identification even worse, by obscuring the area of the stamp where the impression is located.

The second type is quite a bit taller than the first type, which can be of help in picking out varieties with rather obscure impressions.

The Zumstein catalog contains a chart with some great tools for identifying the impressions of the cross-in-oval, as well as the various perforation types on the standing Helvetia issues.




Swiss Stamps

Zumstein Group A

Cross-in-Oval Type 1 - Perforated 11 3/4


The first Swiss stamps of the Standing Helvetia design, shown above, were issued beginning in 1882. They were higher denomination stamps and complimented the lower-denomination Numeral and Cross definitives, issued at the same time.

The first issues were printed on white paper, impressed with the cross-in-oval type 1, and they were perforated 11 3/4. This perforation measurement is critical in identifying the stamps from this first set.

The Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalog lists this set as being perforated 11 1/2. IT IS NOT! It is incredible how many of these I've ordered, based on Scott numbers, and when I received them, they WERE NOT perforated 11 3/4, but usually the much cheaper 11 1/2 x 11 gauge.

The 20 C., 25 C., 40 C., 50 C., and 1 Fr. denominations were issued in 1882. The 3 Fr. denomination was issued in 1891. There are two distinct shades on the 25 C., the first being green and the second being a deep bluish green.

There is also a 30 C. denomination, in brown, which exists perforated 11 3/4, with the impressed cross-in-oval type 1. It is exceedingly rare and is pretty much unobtainable (about 100 examples known).


Zumstein Group B

Cross-in-Oval Type 1 - Perforated 9 1/2


During 1888, the 20 C., 25 C., 40 C., 50 C. and 1 Fr. denominations were re-issued with perforation gauge 9 1/2. They were still printed on white paper with the impressed cross-in-oval type 1.

After a couple years, the Swiss stamps of the standing Helvetia design, with this gauge, were deemed unsuitable and discontinued. The large perforation holes frequently caused the stamps to tear when they were separated. As a result of their very short period of use, these are very scarce today.


Zumstein Group C

Cross-in-Oval Type 1 - Perforated 11 1/2 x 11


The 20 C., 25 C., 40 C., 50 C. and 1 Fr. denominations were re-issued in 1891 with perforation gauge 11 1/2 x 11. A new 30 C. denomination was added in 1892. All are shown in the scan above, except for the 50 C. denomination. These Swiss stamps were all printed on white paper with the impressed cross-and-oval type 1.

A 3 Fr. denomination also exists, but it is exceedingly rare, with about six examples being known.

This is the point at which collectors of Swiss stamps tend to go insane, in respect to determining the proper attribution. These stamps are identical to the Group D issue below, except that Group D stamps have the impressed cross-in-oval type 2. One has to be able to tell which cross and oval impression the stamp has, with certainty, as the Group C stamps are much scarcer than those of Group D. I am pretty sure that my Group C stamps above are correct, but still, I wouldn't stake my life on it!


Zumstein Group D

Cross-in-Oval Type 2 - Perforated 11 1/2 x 11


In 1894, a new paper featuring the impressed cross-in-oval type 2 was introduced. This paper continued in use for all Swiss stamps until 1905.

The current standing Helvetia denominations of the perforation 11 1/2 x 11 gauge were printed on this paper. All of them are shown in the image above, except for the 30 C. denomination.


Zumstein Group D

Cross-in-Oval Type 2 - Perforated 11 1/2 x 11


Between 1899 and 1903, the 25 C., 50 C., and 1 Fr. Standing Helvetia denominations were issued in changed colors. They are all shown in the image above.


Zumstein Group E

Cross-in-Oval Type 2 - Perforated 11 1/2 x 12


Between 1901 and 1903, the perforation gauge for all the current Swiss stamps was changed to 11 1/2 x 12. All of them, except for the 1 Fr. claret and the 1 Fr. carmine, are shown in the image above.


Zumstein Group F

Cross-in-Oval Type 2 - Perforated 11 3/4


Between 1901 and 1904, the perforation gauge 11 3/4 was again used for two Swiss stamps of the Standing Helvetia design. They were both printed on paper with the impressed cross-in-oval type 2.

The 40 C. denomination, shown above, was redesigned for this issue. On the redesigned stamps, the value numeral is small, and it fits below the oval. On the original designs, the value numeral was much larger and projected into the oval above.

There is also a 3 Fr. denomination perforated 11 3/4 stamp with the cross-in-oval type 2 control mark. It is very rare.


In 1905, a new white paper with a multiple Swiss cross watermark was introduced, and all Swiss stamps have been printed on paper with this watermark since then. The new watermark is shown in the image above.


Zumstein Group A - Watermarked

White Paper - Perforated 11 1/2 x 11


The first Swiss stamps to be printed on the new watermarked paper were all perforated 11 1/2 x 11. All but the 20 C. denomination are shown in the image above.


Zumstein Group A / B - Watermarked

White Paper - Perforated 11 1/2 x 11 and 11 3/4


In 1906, a new plate for the 25 C. denomination was implemented. The stamps were printed with both perforation 11 1/2 x 11 and perforation 11 3/4. Both of them are shown in the image above.

There is also a 40 C. denomination, printed on white, watermarked paper with perforation gauge 11 3/4, which is not shown in the image above. It is a relatively common variety.


Zumstein Group C - Watermarked

White Paper - Perforated 11 1/2 x 12


In 1907, the 20 C., 50 C., 1 Fr., and 3 Fr. Swiss stamps were produced with perforation gauge 11 1/2 x 12. All but the 3 Fr. denomination are shown in the image above.


Zumstein Group A - Watermarked

Granite Paper (Red & Blue Threads) - Perforated 11 1/2 x 12


In 1907 a granite paper, containing blue and red silk fibers, was introduced, and almost all Swiss stamps for the next half Century were printed on this paper.

The current perforated 11 1/2 x 12 Standing Helvetia denominations were all printed on this new paper. All of the collectible denominations are shown in the scan above. A 3 Fr. denomination does exist, but it is exceedingly rare.


Zumstein Group B - Watermarked

Granite Paper (Red & Blue Threads) - Perforated 11 1/2 x 11


Before the Standing Helvetia series was finally retired at the end of 1907, a few of the 25 C., 30 C., 40 C., 1 Fr., and 3 Fr. denominations were printed with perforation gauge 11 1/2 x 11. The basically collectible denominations are shown in the image above. The 30 C., 40 C., and 1 Fr. denominations are very rare and seldom obtainable.

Though the Standing Helvetia stamps remained valid until 1924, they were replaced by a brand new definitive series of Swiss stamps in 1908. Usages of the Standing Helvetia stamps after 1908 are very scarce.

Taking into account the basic denominations and colors, there are actually only 12 Standing Helvetia stamps. Most collectors choose to take the effort much farther than this though, as you can see how just separating the perforations and watermarks greatly expanded the number of stamps presented in this article. The majority of the standing Helvetia issues, in used condition, are NOT EXPENSIVE, so specialization is something that just about anyone could do with a little effort.

Want to do a life-long philatelic study on these? Some people have. There are numerous plate-flaws and retouches on just about every stamp in this series. The Zumstein Spezialkatalog Schweiz, 2000 edition, has over sixty pages dedicated to the plate flaws on this series. There's also postal history. The possibilities for specialization in the Standing Helvetia issues are immense.




eBay Auction and Store Links

Switzerland

The following links feature category-focused affiliated seller listings on various eBay sites worldwide. They may enable visitors to shop for and to buy specific items for the particular collecting subject they've just read about. 

The affiliated eBay seller auction lots provided by eBay, Inc. are not the responsibility of the management of this website.  On high priced material, make sure the lots you are buying are properly authenticated.

Remember that the lots on most of the European eBay sites are priced in EUROS.  The lots on the Switzerland eBay site are priced in SWISS FRANCS.  The Swiss Franc is roughly equivalent to the US Dollar.  Shipping charges may be more, and the lots may take longer to arrive.  Also, make sure the foreign seller ships to your country, before bidding on or buying his lot.










Return to Switzerland Stamps from
Swiss Stamps - Standing Helvetia Issues of 1881-1907






SBI!